This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
02 Sep 1991: Chikane, Frank
POM I'm talking with Reverend Frank Chikane on the 2nd of September. Let me begin with something that's puzzled me and that is, in the white community here, whether it's ordinary people, the government, and liberals, whatever, that there's an attitude of let's get on with the future, build a new South Africa. And apartheid and all it stood for is just swept under the table and there seems to be no acknowledgement of the awful wrong that was done. That, in fact, this was evil, this wasn't just a mistake! And secondly, there's no sense of apology. Do you have some thoughts on that?
FC I think it's a reality that we are facing. I'm convinced that they would wish that apartheid didn't exist. They want to wish away the problems that apartheid has created. They also want to get a lot of victims of apartheid to say that they must forget the past. Let bygones be bygones and let's talk about the new society. For people who are victimising you, it's easier to make that type of statement. But for those who've been victims it is not an easy statement. Of course, they say, 'Let bygones be bygones', when it suits them. But when it doesn't suit them, they don't say bygones must be bygones.
When we talk about the land question, they are trying to say it's not feasible to tend the land and let bygones be bygones. But when you talk about general amnesty for all South African exiles, they say, 'No, all the past is important. They must declare exactly what they have done so that we can determine whether we give them indemnity or not.' And that indicates that even their bygones story is actually not a critical understanding of what they are talking about. It's a biased position which suits their particular interest. Let me just say that theologically you would expect that those who are Christians who would even take this matter of an apology and confession and asking for forgiveness much more seriously. But I haven't found that, either. People find it difficult to apologise or ask or confess their wrongs. The DRC has gone as far as saying, 'We do confess that we were wrong.' But they can't handle the implications of that confession. Because if I've stolen their TV set and I confess that I'm the thief, and then keep your TV set and watch it in my house, then I have not corrected the wrong. You need to not only confess but go further to correct the wrongs. But the other dimension of it is that the person who confesses and asks for forgiveness is the happiest person ever. But the people who have to accept the apology, and forgive, have got a very difficult task.
If you know that these people who are still in John Vorster here are the ones who tortured you, and are still holding official positions in the police force, and when we reach an agreement their pensions will be guaranteed for torturing you, then you realise how serious the issue is. It's not a simple matter of forgiveness. It has structural implications on its own. And we don't want them to pay for all the damage they've done but there are certain issues that could be corrected.
POM I remember last year, we asked the moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church whether he thought of apartheid as evil. And he said, no, he thought it was wrong.
POM There seems such an immense difference between something that's wrong, which is what he said.
FC Oh, yes. Yes.
POM Do you think that time will come when the past has got to be re-examined like in the very same way as the Jews built, in terms of concentration camps, into monuments against Hitler, that the memory must be kept there because it was such a severe form of oppression?
FC I actually don't think so. I mean, this whole experience about the Jews and the second World War and Europe still hunting the war criminals, etc. It's very strange to us, actually. I mean, they expect us to forgive and forget quickly. But they don't. It's a very strange contradiction. And I actually believe if Africa would remind Europe of all the crimes they have committed. I mean, that would be a very serious indictment. I don't think our people are going to go that road. Our people are prepared to forgive. It's a painful thing. Our people are prepared to face the reality of the future. What they can do is have somebody to keep what they have taken wrongfully from them in the new society. That, they can handle. If you torture me, you can't pay me. I mean, all these security policemen who so subjected me to torture, there's no way in which they can pay me for that. They're not going to pay for our brothers and sisters who are dead. There's no price they can pay. Even if you killed all of them. It doesn't pay anything, it creates more problems! And so, I don't think people are looking at those abstract aspects that are highly emotional. But we're simply talking about what is still there.
My mother talked to me this morning and my younger brother went to the Eastern Transvaal where the land they took from our family is. We can still see that it has not been used since the 1960s when they took it away from us. They didn't need the land except that they wanted to turn our parents into workers. They needed labour, units. And so, to do that, is to remove the land from the African majority and get them to the factories and mines. That was really the main reason for the Land Act of 1913 and later, amended in 1936. It was not a shortage of land. They were not scrambling for land. And so my mother went to point and say, 'It started from this tree and that tree, they are my fruit trees.' They are still there! And that is what we are talking about. We are not talking about something you can do much about. And so, people are very realistic. I don't think they are going to - even the monuments, even the days that we celebrate, we are not sure what we are going to do with them because they have implications for the future. And that is going to be part of the negotiation process.
POM I want to go back to something that may sound very naïve but I ask it because of the variety of responses I've received to the question. And that is, when the negotiators finally do sit around the negotiating table, how do you define the problem they're there to resolve? Now, there are those who said this is about race, racial domination of the black majority by the white minority. Those who say the issue is nationalisms, competition of black nationalism and white nationalism. Those who will say, yes, there are racial disparities but within each racial category you have severe ethnic differences that must be accounted for to avoid potential conflict in the future. You have those who say it's about resources, those who have, those who don't the privileged versus the unprivileged. In your view, if you had to define for the negotiators what the essence of the problem was they were there to resolve, what would you tell them?
FC My thinking might look like it's much closer to the PAC theory. The PAC says there's nothing to negotiate actually. They just have to return the land back and we take care of ourselves. I mean, it's such a simplified version. But mine is not that much of the PAC position. Mine is that, if South Africa, if the government of white South Africa can agree that what we need is a non-racial democratic South Africa as a principle, then you don't have to go and debate the questions of racism. Because the new society will not have that. You don't have to go and debate about privileges for whites. How do we secure their privileges they accumulated over the years?
And you note that I use "privileges" rather than "rights" because I differentiate between privileges and rights. And people confuse what is privilege now. And they want to debate rights. And if it's rights, it should be rights for all. It can't be rights for whites alone. There could be language problems that you have to deal with which are standard things that you deal with in any country around the world. I'm not sure you can even define our problem culturally because the issue about culture is not something you can legislate for. You can't say, I'm legislating for culture. I mean, anyway, if they tried that, they would be in big trouble as well because one contradiction is that the Coloured community speaks Afrikaans. And most of it doesn't have any other culture except Afrikaner culture in some form. And so, you couldn't use language to exclude the Coloured community in your type of group concept. And so, if racism is not the subject, because it can be the subject, then you're not talking about the new society. Then you'll be talking about mechanisms that will set up a just society. Those types of structures that will produce justice. And the type of programmes you'll engage to correct the past, the wrongs of the past, the imbalances created by apartheid. For me, those are going to be the two major issues. It's the structures you need to make sure that this principle of non-racialism and democracy is met. And secondly, it is the imbalances that you need to deal with. It's going to the area of resources and training and education.
POM So, there'd really be two sets of almost parallel negotiations going on. Those who would talk about governance structures and the constitution and those that would set out the mechanisms for redistribution, for correcting economic imbalances.
FC Well, I'd suspect it would be the same structure. Suppose it's the Constituent Assembly. You could have working groups on different areas, but it would have to be the same structure because you couldn't look at the structures for the future without looking at the imbalances that have been created by apartheid.
POM So, what I'm getting at, I suppose, is that before you get to an election for any new government, the main structures for redistribution must have been negotiated and laid down.
FC Well, maybe in terms of timetable. I'm not quite sure, because it could be that once you have agreed on a non-racial democratic type of constitution then the parties would argue for particular positions on the question of redistribution and reconstruction. Because that's going to be an area of disagreement. But it is very possible that, particularly from the business community in South Africa, that they could voluntarily accept. They use the words, like "affirmative action". They don't talk about redistribution but they use affirmative action which, to me, depending on your definition, could come to the same thing or be integrated. There are things that can be done now to try to correct the imbalances. But some of the policy questions might have to be party, political positions that would be taken into consideration. Because no one would then win elections without assuring people that the imbalances are going to be corrected.
POM Do you think the National Party has conceded fully the principle of one man, one vote - one person, one vote?
FC I don't think so. They have told the world they are going to do that, but they still talk about there are two chambers, which is a very strange concept. There's nothing wrong in having two houses of parliament but if you use one of them to veto the other on a racial basis, then it's back to racism. So, in that sense, I don't think they have settled with one person, one vote. They have this regional, geographic, nine of them areas, that they want to demarcate as states, which are quite strange concepts. But I feel if you did that, that's an abnormal type of groupings and geographic boundaries. Because in the United States, you had a natural development of those states, which was not part of a design of one group against another. All this time, they didn't actually think South Africa is too big to be governed by them, and suddenly when they have to tell everybody to participate, suddenly it's too big, they want to divide it into nine states, etc. And we have to go in and check the borders of those states. And I'm convinced they would actually be trying to define it in such a way that they would preserve their interests, the interests of the minority rather than have the interests of the majority at heart.
POM Part of the plan that they unveiled last week, their proposals, calls for a local government voting structure in which there would be voter rolls. One, there'd be one of universal franchise. And the other would be one that would be qualified by property. You had to be a property owner, pay property taxes and you'd get a second vote.
FC Yes. Yes. I mean, they have just arrived in the fifties where the United Party was and they can make that debate that which we have resolved long, long ago.
POM We talked to a Minister this morning about this. I won't mention his name.
POM And I said that this would kind of - politically, it's like saying everything you thought about the National Party is true, in which they're trying to craft a shifty arrangement to get around doing something. But his response was, 'What would we do about a place like Durban? You can't have four million squatters who would determine the future of the municipal area.'
FC Why shouldn't they?
POM What answer would you give to him?
FC Why shouldn't they? They are the people who must determine the future of that place. Because why shouldn't they determine? Why should those who were enriched by apartheid determine your future at the end of the day? Because they have more money, apartheid has given them more money? I think it's important for them to be reminded because, you see, they want us to forget us about the past but they want to build on the past for their future. They want to use the disparities, the destruction of apartheid, to build up on the future and decision making because they forget. And when we did research to represent Soweto and got the agreement we had for Soweto, I was part of that. I mean, up to 1963, I don't forget that letter. It just strikes me because it's so recent that no black person in Soweto was allowed to own a business, because it is in a white area. Could not enter in any form of partnership. You were not allowed by law to enter into partnership. You couldn't have shares. You could only own a corner shop which sold basic commodities, they said. Which means bread, cheese, mealie-meal, etc. You couldn't sell clothes, for instance. And it was by law that you couldn't enter into business and make money for yourself. And then when they had done that over many years, and what they created had reduced you to a squatter because you can't make it in life, then they say, 'Now, those who have money who have made it on the basis of apartheid must be the decision makers.' And that we reject. We're saying, the victims of this system must be the decision makers. They must be the ones who determine, because if those who are privileged now out of apartheid become the decision makers they will maintain the status quo. Whereas those who are victims would actually dismantle the status quo and reorganise the society differently. And I know it's frightening to them. They can't handle that. But that's the reality.
POM I want to talk for a minute about ethnicity. We've talked to a number of what you might call white progressives, liberals and whatever. And I asked whether ethnicity is a factor. And invariably they say, yes, it is. And I'll ask, 'Is it talked about?' And they'll say, 'No, it's not but if you bring it up it's kind of like you're being, you sound like an apologist for the government. You're seen as saying, well, the government was right, they just got the wrong answer.' So they say it's not really talked about or discussed fully. On the other hand, we've talked to black academics who would say, put a much lower emphasis along the ethnicity factor where most of the research and emphasis almost varies according to race. Is ethnicity, in your view, a factor of sufficient dimension that whatever structures are set up, government structures, must take into account the possibility of future ethnic conflict in the constitution? Sorry, future ethnic factors. And provide measures to ensure that it doesn't arise?
FC I think I would be worse than those academics. In terms of my position because I've grown up in Soweto. There, there's no so-called African ethnic group or whatever terms you use, they're terrible terms. Tribal. That is not there. We live together. We have intermarriages. We have integrated the culture, the cultures have integrated. If we go on a marriage ceremony, because we marry across the traditional lines. Soweto has developed some culture that is no-one's culture. They have integrated all these strange things about what you do and you won't get married and etc. And they've found a way of dealing with it. So that they actually can universalise their relationships and all of them have put their cultural traditions in one bag and they have produced something quite strange to all of them. And so, for me, it's not the major issue. We don't fight in Soweto because of particular language group or something. We have never done that before. This is a recent issue. It started just a year or so ago. Because even during the Natal conflict, it was Zulus against Zulus. The 4,000 we talk about in Natal are Zulu-speaking people murdering one another. And so it has nothing to do with the ethnic concept. It's only when it came to Transvaal that they made it Xhosa/Zulu, for convenience. You know, it made sense, because where the Nguni group, which is the Zulu/Swazi/Xhosa/Ndebele group as opposed to the Sotho group, these languages are grouped into two main streams. That's from a linguistics point of view. The government put those people together in the hostels so that the Xhosas and the Zulus will inevitably by design be in the same hostel. And so when a conflict happens amongst the Zulu-speaking people, amongst those who are Inkatha and those who are not Inkatha, the Zulus became the first victims in the hostel. And the next lot are the Xhosa-speaking people. So by the time it explodes outside there it is a Xhosa/Zulu, when it fact you've got Zulu-speaking people in our refuge, who ran out of the hostel first because they were the first target. And so, for me, it's not the major - I don't think it's a problem! I mean, the European group has found a way of living together in South Africa without defining a constitution on the basis of those differences. And I don't think we need a constitution, actually, that specifies that.
POM Last year, when I was here in December and when you ran the programme to take people out to Phola Park, and I went out. And you may remember, Mr. Mandela had some trouble outside the hostels. Well, Patricia and I went back there a couple of days later and talked to the hostel workers. Two things. Really, though, three things. Kind of sad. One is, they were convinced that Mandela had been at the police station the previous night, plotting with the police.
FC Yes, OK. OK, Yes.
POM To a person, they would say this was Xhosa violence, the ANC is dominated by Xhosas and out to create a one-party state. And knowing that the Zulus were the only people that stood between them and a one-party state. This was repeated again and again and again and again. And the third thing ...
PK Deals with the destructions of their hostels ...
POM That's right.
FC Oh, the destruction, yes.
POM That if, that Mandela's advocacy ...
FC Yes, ending the hostels ...
POM Of getting rid of the hostels and pulling them out was really a design that would disperse them among the community and make them more vulnerable. How do you address perceptions like that?
FC I've been in those hostels myself. I visited the one in ... and talked to the people. I sympathise with those people in those hostels because in the first place, we have lived with them for many years and there was no conflict. That's why I'm saying this conflict is a recent phenomenon that does not belong in our communities. If there was conflict between hostel dwellers and residents, it would have been at a personal level, not as a community. There would be some differences between individuals like any other community. But not as a unit. Because they have not been Zulu based necessarily. It became Zulu based when they flushed out all the Zulu-speaking people who were not Inkatha members and the Xhosa-speaking and the rest. And remained alone. Then it became now an Inkatha base. And so they now feel threatened because they have defined themselves, if you had an Inkatha member amongst others in the hostel, the hostel would not be attacked for any reason. But if you have flushed out everybody else and you retain that as your territory, then you are bound to feel frightened and threatened.
Of course, the issue about Mandela planning with the police to deal with that, I mean, that's just, I mean, the experience during the weekend now. I mean, you need the police to intervene. Otherwise, Mandela must get uMkhonto we Sizwe to go in and intervene. And that would break the suspension of the armed struggle. And so, if they go and kill people and they don't expect you to go to a police station to ask them to intervene, that's a different question altogether. But I think the key question that you're coming to is the issue about them being the ones who stand between the - what do they say - between?
POM Of one party?
FC Of a one-party dominated state.
POM And ANC-dominated, one-party state.
FC Yes. Yes. I mean, I went to that hostel myself. The type of indoctrination is amazing in those hostels. Firstly, they don't read newspapers, most of them. Secondly, they don't have TV sets. You know, I was there. Sorry? They don't have yet. Yes, some. Most of them.
Thirdly, they will have radios because that's for music and other things, etc. But they would most probably not be listening to the news items. And when I arrived in that hostel, it was clear they were briefed. I told the police, I'm going to that hostel. I'm going to visit it. And I feel we need to talk to both sides. As a church, you had visited the community that was attacked and we wanted to go to the hostel itself. And when I arrived there, if any person was watching TV and heard me talking about hostels, they would have recognised me immediately. But I was standing, I'm short and tiny, and I was standing right in front of them, the leadership there. And they asked where this Reverend Chikane is? Because they were told this Reverend Chikane is coming here, and he wants to get rid of our hostels and where does he think we are going to stand? And they were raging! And one of the church leaders said, 'He's the man who's standing next to you!' And then it was quite a shock to them. And after talking to them, they realised that the story they have been told is not true. And then we began to relate to them. And so, it is quite clear they are pushing a lot of propaganda.
I've got a letter from this hostel association in Natal. They wrote to me. And then they made a statement, which they are distributing and the church has sent it to me. And I've written to them. And in that statement they say, the SACC and the ANC want to get rid of the hostels, so that we can go without accommodation. They want to force us to bring our families to ... and leave our land. They are against us owning our land. It's a very strange logic. And it's the same accusation they level against Mandela. We have not said they must get rid of their accommodation. What we are saying is that a single-sex hostel is unacceptable in any, civilized society, if I have to use a term I don't like! You build flats there, here there are single-flat units in town here. If you're not here with your family or you're not married, you can go and stay in a flat if you want to. It's your own choice. But you don't create a compound for men who have left their wives elsewhere to stay together in that type of setting. Because that creates a social problem on its own. And so, what we are saying is that we think they have to be phased out and we have to use proper terms about this because it's a very explosive issue. That you phase them out and build family units and single flats-type of units so that they live amongst families rather than live alone outside there. And they are scattering around. Now, we live with Zulu-speaking in the towns. I mean, the people who live next to me - there are real Zulu-speaking people in Soweto now. And the people on my other side, as well, are Zulu-speaking. So, there's no story about Zulus fighting anybody or anybody fighting Zulus. No one is threatened. And therefore, there is no threat. They are saying there's a big story from Ulundi that says the ANC is trying to set up a one-party state. It's a very strange concept, actually.
POM You get the same thing from Buthelezi and other high-ranking people in Inkatha who still say the ANC is out to dominate.
FC Yes, well, some three years ago, before they unbanned the ANC, they said the ANC has no support in the country, so, ignore them.
FC And then, secondly, they are scared that these people want to dominate. Now, any democratic process means that you organise your party and get as many votes as possible to be in parliament. And so, if that is not democracy, I'm no more sure what democracy we are talking about. And so, I find this quite strange, actually. The thing is that Inkatha is redefining de Klerk's concept to fit within their concept to support de Klerk's position, basically. At the other end, they agree in terms of principles of regions and the issue about domination. We must share power. I'm sure they will agree with five presidents so that they can also have their man there as president or whatever the case may be. I mean, they would almost agree with anything that de Klerk stands for.
POM When the violence did begin in the Transvaal last year, first, like the ANC pointing its finger at Inkatha and then later saying there was a third force involvement and then it went on to say there was direct government involvement. And with the revelations of Inkathagate, to many that was taken as kind of almost the irrefutable proof that the government was involved in the violence and that it has, in fact, a double agenda. Do you believe that?
FC Oh, actually I tend to think I now believe it more than any other person at this stage because we are the people who made representations to de Klerk twice - in April on the 11th, after the rally they funded and we presented evidence from Natal. I don't stay in Natal, we got that information from church leaders there. And those church leaders in Natal are not radicals in the classical sense of the word. I mean, Archbishop Hurley, those types of people who produce the information. We presented to de Klerk and Vlok said we were lying, we just wanted to discredit the police and security forces.
POM What did de Klerk say when you presented this stuff to him?
FC Oh, I mean, he always makes general comments that the police are impartial etc., and then gives it to Vlok to respond to the details. And he says this is all untrue. You know, there's no such a thing like that. Bring evidence. You bring evidence which they do nothing about it and then tomorrow they talk like you haven't presented it. After the violence in the Transvaal, in July/August, we went to Union Buildings to present a thick memorandum with affidavits, some bound, some loose because we had just produced them as we went to the mailing. And there, again, Vlok said we were lying. And he said that in public. In September, in The Citizen, there's an article where he said I was the person who was lying actually and had another agenda to discredit the police and the security forces. In the first meeting when we met de Klerk to a certain extent my conclusion was that he didn't believe what Vlok was saying.
POM That was your impression?
FC My impression was that he accepted that there are forces within the security forces who want to destabilise the situation. You will remember that it was after he had had a confidential briefing for the Generals. Somewhere in February, January last year. And the Generals chose to leak out the document he used to brief them confidentially. And he said to us, I mean, that was off the record but you can see from the way in which some Generals leaked out the document, there are people within. But that was ignored. You see, it can't be said publicly. I think he knew what was happening, in my opinion. And so, that has made me feel that the government is directly involved. It is part of their philosophy. They have done it in Namibia. They will destabilise the situation as you have elections. That's why the manifold came from the Foreign Ministry because they are more experienced, they have learned from Namibia. I don't see why they shouldn't have given Vlok straight from the Treasury the money to do that. But it goes by the Foreign Ministry, just to indicate that they are expecting this destabilisation of parties in Namibia and they should determine how that gets handled. So, in my opinion, the government is directly involved. The fact that de Klerk said he has confidence in Vlok and Malan after admitting that they had actually passed money to Inkatha for that rally shows that in the main they agreed on the thrust they had taken. Except that they got caught and they must find a way of explaining it. If they were not caught, they would not even worry about it because that's part of the policy.
POM Yes. I want you to relate that to your belief that the government has been and is involved in and continues to be involved in this violence, with the Peace Commission that has been meeting, with which you have so much to do. A couple of things. One, if this produces an accord to be signed everybody does it have an impact on the ground where this violence comes from? I mean, what will have to actually change for it to have an impact on the behaviour of people?
FC I think it will have psychological impact. At least the conference and the signing ceremony is really to impact on the ordinary people to realise that their leaders are committed to making peace. But in terms of the actual implementation, unless the security forces change their approach in dealing with the reality we are facing, we could go back again to square one. You know, we could have the violence continuing again because we can't stop the security forces. They have got the means, they are monitoring us. I mean, you saw about the Barbara Hogan story of the Government. I mean, the security forces setting up intelligence, setting up people around us. It means the state is still the same state, it's still the same government that fought us. And they're, in the transition, they have to make sure that they are secure. So they still have to do intelligence against Frank Chikane, so that they can actually make sure their interests are secured. And for that reason, the ordinary policeman will always see me as a target and an enemy. Once you do intelligence against me, you develop an enemy scenario and for that reason, I think it will take a lot for the police to actually change around. That's why we have joined the song of an interim government or interim mechanism to control the security forces in particular. So that there is a joint command.
POM But with this Peace Commission, was there any - like, the government was represented by Roelf Meyer and you had Inkatha with Frank Mdlalose and you were there and the ANC had ...
POM Thabo Mbeki, yes. Was the admission by Meyer on behalf of the government of possible government involvement or was this all a matter of saying, 'Well, let's devise a nice code of conduct for the police?'
POM So, in a way, you agreed not to discuss the problem because everyone would have such a different view of it, either lying or telling the truth, that it would get you nowhere. That what you had to do was to say, what do we want to happen? How do we make the violence stop rather than what procedures do we use?
FC Actually, we left that to the political players. We deliberately, we didn't even talk, it's amazing. We didn't even decide formally. [We simply asked about our great ???.] It was the 24th of July. I called that meeting. I normally describe that meeting like a vigil, a night vigil, when there's a death. It felt like it was a night vigil and there was a death where you don't talk about what has happened, type of thing. And we went through that meeting without talking about it and we have never talked about it again since, except in the August meeting when Inkatha said Mr ... said terrible things about their chief minister in dealing with this Inkathagate. That was the closest we came to. And they demanded a meeting with the ANC and I'm sure that's why today you've got that story about the ANC agreeing to meet them. But we never discussed it. Because if we did, we'd have stopped. The process wouldn't have continued. And we left it to the politicians so that we see ourselves as a temporary committee to set up the convention and when the convention has take place, we can hold those parties on moral grounds. They've got a moral responsibility. We can isolate any party which tends against the accord. So that it is not based, necessarily, in the past except that it does say, it does talk about such secret operations in their code itself.
POM Would you call on Roelf Meyer now as the new Minister of Defence to take an in-depth look at the internal workings of the Department of Defence to find out where these secret units are?
FC Yes. Well, I think we have made that call. I don't think it will be done specifically for Roelf Meyer because Roelf Meyer is not part of the system. I mean, he's part of that Cabinet, basically. It's not individuals who are problems. [That's why I did not oppose ??? the same as ???, Vlok, and Malan gave to resign but I didn't move for it.] I said why Vlok and Meyer? Because Pik Botha transferred the money. Why not say Pik Botha must resign, for instance? There are no secret things that are done there without the knowledge of the key Cabinet members who are in the Security Council. Look, there are things that some right-wing policemen will do in Soweto which is not all that violent. That's a different issue. But the more sophisticated stuff, the assassination units, etc., are operated formally from the structure. And so, I don't believe they don't know about it. And Roelf Meyer doesn't have to go and search for that, because it is known. They have intelligence. I mean, intelligence does intelligence against itself as it were. You can't afford a system that sabotages you as a State President. Even as any unit of the police within the police force. And the intelligence is not aware of that unit. Then it's even dangerous to de Klerk himself. I don't believe that. They could have run such sophisticated units which require so much money and they are not aware that it's happening. Whereas if you are using the resources of government to go and do your own thing, that's a different issue.
POM So, if I hear what you're saying, in a way you're saying that the commission that will result from the signing of this Peace Accord in one sense is highly symbolic. It's main power is symbolic power. That you can now hold the parties to be kind of morally responsible for what goes on.
FC Yes. If we catch the Government, like, they've been caught, then we can mobilise the country and the international community against them. You see, it's that moral power.
POM Yeah. But if you can't catch them, I mean, if police continue to operate as they are, if that part of the security apparatus continues to instigate this violence there's not much that the Peace Accord can do about that.
FC No. We can't stop them. We can catch them. But we can't stop them. Because to stop them, you need another army to do that, and that would be devastating, actually. And so we are at their mercy. It is what is written but I believe, why I believe strongly that we need an interim mechanism. Because we are completely at their mercy. The UNHCR negotiation is classical. Simple thing like UNHCR come in here. We started talking to them in November last year. They only agreed now. We have no reason why they took so long. They don't need to explain to us. It's an unequal negotiation basis. And so, we don't have the control over the security forces. They are not commanded by a force that was elected by us.
PK There are some who say the commission that will be set up as a result of this peace agreement is an example of the kind of interim mechanism that is needed. And that it would have subpoena powers for records, that type of thing. And the accountability is not day-to-day, operational management.
FC Yes. In the way in which the Peace Accord comes close to being a transitional mechanism, actually quite close. But it is not as close as we would want it to be. Because, you see, even that commission will have to be legislated by that parliament where I don't vote. So, if they decide to change it, they will change it because they don't have to get my views on that. That's the abnormality of this situation. That they are legally the government and that government is not my government. That's the end. I mean, in the documents, they must go and vote on, which I'm not part of.
POM If the level of violence continues to be as high as it is, can there be meaningful negotiations?
FC I think one may prove that if violence has escalated to that level, that there will be no negotiations.
POM That's at the level of?
PK In May.
FC Yes, the May level.
POM The May level.
FC Yes, that May level. You know, the March-April-May period was awful. And it was going on for a long time. And it reached a climax where the ANC's credibility was completely at stake, It was the only party within the black community that wanted to negotiate among the liberation movement. And they were getting into big trouble. Their support was getting eroded, people were saying, how do you negotiate if you can't talk to them to stop the violence? How can you negotiate a new constitution? They lose confidence in the whole system. How are you going to implement the new constitution if you finish negotiation and then they tell you we're not accepting? What are you going to do about it? And if they eliminate all of you, what are you going to do about it? And so, I'm hoping that the government understood that. And it knows that if they don't stop the violence, there will not be negotiations. And I think the international community, to a certain extent, also understands that that violence is no good at all. The business community in South Africa, it's even much more concerned because it affects their business. But there won't be negotiations. No one will have credibility to negotiate when people are dying in Soweto.
POM My understanding of what the ANC want with regard to an interim government is they want the government to resign and that a new, all-party government be formed. And from people that we've talked to in the ANC, they seem pretty insistent that they're going to hold that demand. But do you see any circumstances in which this government would vote itself out of existence? I mean, knowing the history of the state?
FC Yes. Yes. I think Mandela's view is the easiest way out. Because his view is that they will make them to go out. They are not going to do so willingly. It means you are not going to depend on them choosing to do it because they won't choose to do that, as you are saying. You create the climate that will make them to choose that. It means you eliminate all the other options for them. And make them face the only option that they have to face up to. I think they will find a mechanism. Because what else exists? You see, if they don't resign, suppose they don't resign and you find a formula, which I believe they will have to do that, I doubt they will resign completely. But that formula would have to be done in such a way. My opinion is that legally-speaking, if a problem constitutionally-speaking is a problem, it means there must be a way of suspending the present constitution even to produce a compromise position. What they are talking about in government is to co-opt Mandela into their Cabinet or parliament. But that's totally unacceptable in the black community. It's not going to be. Because he has no power there. And for them to create another mechanism that will give those other people other than this parliament power is to create another entity, a new entity altogether where you act there as equals which will then act as an interim government type of entity. And that might require constitutionally, some action of the present government. Unless, of course, there's a coup, which is a different story. But as long as you've got a constitution in play, then you need to make adjustment to that constitution. And I'm afraid that the right-wing will then demand that they go for a referendum to go and prove they don't accept that. And then it ends up being a white politics debate again, we are excluded in the debate. It means our future must be decided by some people elsewhere. The constitution is not ours. The constitution, everything! So that for the black community, what the ANC is saying makes sense because they don't recognise this constitution, they don't recognise this government, they don't believe it's a constitutionally-valid system, nor legitimate. See, if you take it from that point of view, you'll understand why in the black community it's not a debate, it's not an issue. Whereas in the white community, it's a major issue. And for constitutional lawyers, it's a major issue.
POM Two questions.
FC I'm in trouble with time.
POM One is, you talked about the right-wing, the Conservative Party. Has support for it peaked? Is it on the wane? And the militant right, is it more of an irritant rather than a major threat?
FC I would not call it an irritant and I would be reluctant to call it a major threat. I think it's a dangerous group of people in the country. They are not a major threat in terms of stopping the process. I think I don't believe they can. If they try it, like in the Soviet Union, they would be in big trouble, anyway. You know, people threaten us with the right-wing but please don't shake de Klerk because the right-wing will take over. I say, no, that's out of the question! The right-wing takes over, the British and the Americans will fight them to the limits and get them out of business. And so, it's not going to last long. I think the danger is that they're going to kill many of our people. And that really, for me, is the danger. It's not a threat in the sense that it will make it impossible for us to move into this new society. But it is a danger in the sense that it will take, senselessly take a lot of lives.
POM Just two things. One is, a surprising number of people we have talked to, like, across the spectrum, have indicated that a coalition government between the NP and the ANC will be perfectly acceptable to them at least for the first post-apartheid government. Will that be acceptable to you?
FC I think it depends on what we mean by a coalition government, really.
POM I'll give you two scenarios. One would be a coalition government that will be a result of pre-agreement. That is, in negotiations it will be specified that the National Party would hold four portfolios in government.
FC Oh, yes. OK.
POM The other one would be ...
FC That's the Rhodesian, Zimbabwe scenario.
POM Yes, there'd actually be power. The other one would be where the ANC as the major party after an election ...
FC In the other?
POM Because they believe a government of national reconciliation should be ...
FC I think the first one will be out of the question, because it's not going to be acceptable. Even whites here don't want it in anyway because they knew it didn't help in Zimbabwe. You know, it just marginalises you even further. Because you will remain in the minority anyway so it doesn't help you too much. The ten years went by, we thought it was long, but it went by so quickly and it's forgotten. The Namibian formula would most probably be the proper ballot. What happened in Namibia might be closer to our situation. That the ANC, if it wins the elections, might choose to keep on certain people with skills in certain parties. You know, into their family to govern the country.
PK Namibia only chose one, and that was the party that was so close to ...
FC Yes, yes. But, I'm talking about the format.
PK The idea of it.
FC The idea to the extent to which it would go is another question. But you would have to prove that such skills don't exist in the, within the ANC. It won't be just the principle. It'll depend on whether you appreciate Moseneke's skills in the PAC and you invite him to serve in your Cabinet or something like that. Or you go to the Democratic Party and say, we appreciate X's skills that we feel are necessary and we are going to bring him in as long as he plays the game with us. But there could be another coalition government where it becomes parties coming together to govern a country and promise each other numbers of seats, so many numbers of seats. You could do that. I don't think that's going to be the major problem, really. What won't happen is to expect, like people think, a coalition government between the ANC and Inkatha and I'm taking the extreme. It could even be possible the ANC with government. I think that the ANC would pick up one government MP on their side without problems. I suspect that wouldn't be difficult. But you don't generate animosity between Inkatha and the ANC and then expect them to form a coalition government in the future. It's not going to happen that easily.
POM Last question. And thank you for the time.
POM Is one that I haven't received any good answer for, and maybe you could just help throw some light on it. One's struck by the fact that in Natal, most people we've talked to, including church people, members of the ANC, whatever, would all say that revenge is emotive in the killing that goes on there. That in fact over generations it can last. And revenge can be political, even though fought by generations. I contrast that with the forgiveness of blacks towards whites, I almost find it difficult to comprehend. Sorry, I do find it difficult to comprehend. And I can't quite equate why, on the one hand, at least in the Natal, there is a vengeful or revengeful factor that's part of violence, and on the other hand you have blacks who are forgiving towards whites.
FC Yes. I think there's a clear indication. You see, with whites, it was the system that was killing you. You couldn't identify the individuals. Whereas if it happens on a family level, on the ground in a township, it becomes that family and the other family. I mean, I've been in the funeral of my brother-in-law in this weekend where it has divided the community completely. And the families are divided. They point at their houses where so-and-so sold my brother and so-and-so was involved with killing my sister. Once that happens, it's too real within the community. But if it is a unit of the security forces in John Vorster Square which comes to hit at you with no particular relationship with you, then it's easier to close that chapter because you are dealing with a system rather than the human being. It becomes difficult for me when I have to handle those because I know them. There's a guilty policeman who tortured me. I mean, they spend so much time with you, you can't forget them. And if they detain you for six months incommunicado and the only people you see is them, you can't forget them. So when they appear anywhere else, I can still say, This is Mr. So-and-so who tortured me. That is difficult to handle and forgive at a person-to-person level. That at a system level, it's easier to close the chapter and start anew. I think that would really explain that type of anger and bitterness.
There is also, maybe, another reason, that if it is your own black brother, and I'm talking in that traditional sense, selling you out, if it's a family member, it's less forgivable than when it is somebody you expect to do it anyway. There is also that element one might need to bring in in analysing that factor. And you also, if you look at what happened in the seventies, the attacks on political counsellors, etc., the black faces of the apartheid system. They're attacks that started with those black faces. They didn't have informal, etc., during the 1985/1986 period. They were not targeting at the police themselves necessarily but the person amongst them who was giving into them, that is an enemy force that is understood. But when somebody amongst you gets you into that trouble, then you tend to be more brutal about that person amongst you than the person who's outside. It's a very strange thing but I think it can be explained. And it's dangerous. I mean, it breaks communities, it breaks families. It's just unbelievable.
PK Can I ask one quick question about the negotiations in the National Party proposal here? We've heard over and over again from many people in the ANC that there isn't an alternative to the negotiation process. Yet when the government puts a proposal like it puts on the table, it must seem awful, it's like a non-starter. I mean, you will equate one man, one vote with property rights. After two years of spending millions of dollars .. The government knows that?
FC They know that. Actually, I addressed the Jewish Board of Deputies last Sunday and I said to them, 'I wish the culture of tolerance is created by the fact that people are made to learn that you fight for everything.' So the government says it is not feasible to redistribute the land and the people take to the streets, go and occupy land, and then the government makes compromises. Which means you don't expect them to be realistic. When they state their position, that you have to fight it to get the right thing. And you are going to lose lives. [And even during this transition period, it's actually, for me, the ...]